Monday, September 28, 2009

Notes from the Net: A free Miles Davis download; a Lester Bowie tribute; the "death" of jazz, continued; plus news, reviews, interviews, and more

Here's the latest compilation of assorted news briefs and links related to jazz, improvisation, and creative music in St. Louis, including news of musicians originally from the Gateway City, recent visitors, and coming attractions, plus assorted other items of interest.

* Let's start with our usual helping of Miles Davis-related news - specifically, some more details about the upcoming 70-CD set reissue of all of Davis' albums on Columbia/Sony.

Next up, the blog Hidden Track has a free download of a previously unissued set by Davis' late 1960s "Lost Quintet," with Chick Corea (keyboards), Jack DeJohnette (drums), Dave Holland (bass) and Wayne Shorter (saxophones). The recording was made November 9, 1969 in Rotterdam for Radio Netherlands, and contains versions of "Directions," "Bitches Brew," "Sanctuary" and "Masqualero."

In other Davis-related news, the UK classical music blog Overgrown Path has an interesting post about the new book by Richard Williams, The Blue Moment: Miles Davis and The Remaking of Modern Music; Davis' former bassist and producer Marcus Miller did a tribute to the trumpeter over the weekend at the Indianapolis Jazz Festival; and, via the always useful Miles Davis Online, there's news of an exhibition devoted to Davis at the Cité de la Musique in Paris. It's organized into rooms dedicated to various periods in Miles’ life, from his upbringing in East St. Louis all the way to the retrospective concert he did at La Villette in Paris a few weeks before his death

* Turning to news of other St. Louisans past and present, Baikida Carroll is among the trumpeters appearing at this years Festival Of New Trumpet music (FONT) in NYC.

* Roscoe Mitchell and Famoudou Don Moye of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the James Carter Quartet and saxophonist Fred Ho will pay tribute to the late trumpeter and St. Louis native Lester Bowie in a concert on Friday, October 9 at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco.

* Trumpet player, singer and St. Louis native Jeremy Davenport, who now holds down the house gig at the Ritz Carlton in New Orleans, recently joined some of the hotel's employees to help rebuild homes in Louisiana's St. Bernard Parish. Davenport will return to his hometown in November for a Thanksgiving weekend gig at Jazz at the Bistro.

* NYC's New Languages festival includes a tribute to former St. Louisan Julius Hemphill from his friend and admirer, saxophonist Tim Berne. Read about it in this article from the Wall Street Journal's Martin Johnson.

* From the "coming attractions" file, saxophonist Kenny Garrett (pictured) is featured in the latest episode of the online TV show Jazz it Up! Garrett, who will be in St. Louis in October to perform at Jazz at the Bistro, was filmed during a gig at NYC's Iridium. (Bonus St. Louis content: The episode also features the vocal group Take 6 with interpretations of songs from Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue.)

* Singer, pianist and songwriter Nellie McKay, who will be here in November to perform for Cabaret St. Louis at the Kranzberg Arts Center, has a new CD called Normal As Blueberry Pie - A Tribute To Doris Day

* A recent gig by singer-guitarist John Pizzarelli recreating his Radio Deluxe program live on stage is reviewed here by R. J. Deluke for All About Pizzarelli will be back in St. Louis in April at Jazz at the Bistro.

* Finally, let's wrap up with a few more items loosely related to the latest outbreak of the recurring "is jazz dead?" meme.

One thing to keep in mind about the whole controversy is that there is a great of subjectivity involved. Case in point: In a recent post on his Jazz Beyond Jazz blog, veteran jazz journalist and Chicago native Howard Mandel sang the praises of the current scene in his hometown, calling it "the best American city for jazz."

The very same week, an unbylined piece headlined "Chicago Jazz Scene" on offered a much gloomier view, citing the closings of the Jazz Showcase and Hot House clubs, the cancellation of the jazz studies program at Northwestern University, and the elimination of jazz from radio station WPEZ (91.5 FM). "These are truly dark days for the first truly American art form. We hope for better days ahead," it concludes, before segueing to a fairly extensive listing of venues and upcoming shows. Maybe it all really does depends on your perspective...

(Digressing for a moment on the general subject of jazz clubs, here's an entertaining feature story written by Michael Pronko for Japan Times about what is alleged to be the smallest jazz club in the world, Tokyo's Hot House. )

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the USA, "the jazz-club circuit is shrinking. Increasingly, jazz is presented at arts centers and universities," notes the Wall Steet Journal's Larry Blumenfeld in a piece recounting the growth of Jazz at Lincoln Center into an institution with a $38 million annual budget. While some might see this as decidedly a good thing for jazz, not everyone agrees:
"Five years ago, some feared that machine would swallow a chunk of the New York jazz scene. That hasn't been the case. "They make our business even better," said Lorraine Gordon, whose Village Vanguard celebrates its 75th year in 2010. "It creates a positive attitude and it educates people. I think it's an asset...

Within the jazz industry, some are troubled by Mr. (Wynton) Marsalis's dominance in that arena. "What if all that funding was spread across the entire spectrum of jazz," asked Scott Southard, whose International Music Network specializes in jazz, "instead of concentrated in one spot?" Then again, some credit Mr. Marsalis with engendering such support. For Randall Kline, who heads the San Francisco-based SFJazz, "Jazz at Lincoln Center was important in establishing legitimacy. Before, there were no models for jazz in the institutional world."
One observer who's particularly skeptical of the JALC model is Chris Rich, who blogs at Brilliant Corners, A Boston Jazz Blog, and calls the WSJ piece "a typical rationalization of a begging incrementalism where if you are a first rate suck up and career player or some hallowed jazz geezer ready for your boat ride across the Styx you'll get a shot of some of that 38 million bucks they blow each year on this funerary stuff."

In a series of scathing, yet often funny posts, Rich mocks Marsalis and a number of other well-known jazz figures, while lamenting that much of the money that goes to large institutions ends up getting spent to maintain and enhance their prestige and their physical facilities - some refer to this as "the edifice complex" - and to preserve the past, instead of being used to pay musicians and composers to create the future.

So, could that $38 million possibly do more if it were spread around instead of concentrated in one spot? Sure, but the problem is that the corporations and foundations who supply much of that sweet, sweet funding generally prefer to deal with institutions, which they perceive to be stable and relatively accountable, rather than individual artists, who are often seen as difficult and unreliable. The notion of hundreds of smaller presenters fostering musical innovation all over the country certainly is appealing; I'm just not how to get there from our present reality. Please feel free to offer your thoughts, observations and/or rants in the comments...

(Edited 9/30/09 to fix a garbled sentence.)

1 comment:

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Miles Davis will always be one of the best